As the twenty-fourth hour of labor approached, my eyelids grew heavy. A new wave of nurses arrived for their shift change. My eyes were nearly closed when I heard a kindhearted voice say that it was time for her to leave. A new charge nurse was going to oversee my care. But before it would happen, this gentle woman said she would bless me and my baby. She lovingly bent over my tired body, as it sunk into the hospital bed. She began, “This child has a purpose. He is meant to do great things.” Her words were warm and sincere. I opened my eyelids, barely enough to see the rosary that adorned her neck. I heard her name as she walked away. It was Mary.
Mary’s blessing gave way to a reconciliation between my physical exhaustion and the indeterminate length of time that my body, mind, and spirit would continue to labor. A quiet calm climbed into the bed and rested beside me. Nurse Mary’s fleeting words brought me great comfort, as they reminded me of the Virgin Mary’s constant presence in my own prayer life. I often had trouble hearing Jesus in my daily prayers, so I focused on His mother instead. I easily imagined the Blessed Mother in my thoughts or was simply drawn to look at a statue of her, and, soon enough, she would lead me to her Son. Nurse Mary’s blessing reminded me of the bond between Jesus and His mother. I felt a surge of silent encouragement as I continued to labor, knowing that my son’s very existence was full of purpose – a tangible part of God’s plan.
Kahlil Gibran opens his poem “On Children” with these lines:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
Gibran captured this new transition I was feeling. The very act of labor was the palpable experience of bringing one of God’s creations into the physical world. God was inviting me to serve Him in a way that I had never been called to serve before. Giving birth was my invitation to usher one of God’s perfect creatures through life’s journey.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Nurse Mary’s blessing reflected a unique lesson in respecting God’s children, His arrows. I was being transformed into a bow, God’s instrument for guiding my son to discover his own purpose. I would learn to bend under His hand so that my child could do the “great things” he was meant to accomplish.
My child is my teacher. Every day I spend with him is filled with lessons in real patience, honest reflection, and self-giving service. I recognize my son as a vessel of God’s unconditional love. And as I evolve from not only being a child of God to also being a caretaker of one of His children, my response to this new invitation of service is this: uncertain of how I will do, I will lay into the curve of the Archer’s hand, opening the path for my son to discover God’s plan for him.